Monday, December 8, 2014

Reaching Past the Stars: A Catholic Reflection on Interstellar Part II - Time and Eternity

Welcome to the second reflection on Interstellar and the Catholic insights therein.  This is not a film review but a mediation on the themes and ideas from the movie.

You can read part I here.

Once again, please do not read any further if you have not seen the movie.  MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

2.  Time and Eternity.

The central plot of the movie involves a gravitational distortion that occurs around Murph's bedroom that eventually leads Cooper to the secret NASA base where he learns about a wormhole that suddenly appeared near Saturn to a distant galaxy surrounding a black hole.  Through a series of events, Cooper ends up in the black hole where he has gathered information necessary to humanity's survival.

But what he finds inside the black hole is a seemingly endless labyrinth of the different moments from Murph's room.  He can see through the bookshelf at different times and interact in various ways.  He then becomes the cause of the gravitational distortion that leads him to NASA that leads him to the black hole.

Cooper concludes that a far advanced version of humanity has exceeded 4 dimensions and exists on a 5th dimensional plane.  As a result, time exists not as a linear progression but as a singular event where every moment is experienced at once.

From a Catholic perspective, this is a very concrete expression of the Heavenly view of time.

We often talk about God knowing the future.  This is the incorrect way to express the idea.  From our perspective, God knows what is "going to happen."  But God does not know what is "going to happen" from His perspective.  For Him it is happening.

It is important to remember that God is not "in" time and space.  Instead space and time are "in" God.  God is beyond the constraints of the universe He has created.  He is the grounding of all existence.

When I explain this to my students, I draw a line on the chalkboard.  I then begin to retrace the line again with the chalk.  I tell them that the chalk experiences the line only one point at a time, one after the other.  This is how we experience time, moving from past to present to future, but only one moment at a time.  But the chalkboard does not experience the line in the same way.  Instead, the chalkboard experience every part of the line all at once.  The line has its existence on the chalkboard.  In the same way God experience all of time, from Creation to Apocalypse, all at once.

So from His perspective, God does not know what is "going to happen."  For Him, it is happening right now.  He knows how I will die because that moment is happening for Him simultaneously with the moment I call "the present."

In Interstellar, Cooper experiences a little of this perspective in the black hole.  Every moment in Murph's room accessible to him all at once.  And his interactions there are based on his understanding of past, present, and future that he has experienced in that space.

I think perhaps this is a bit of how we will experience time in Heaven.  While the great Jimmy Akin pointed out that there is some kind of time that exists there (which makes sense since we have bodies and space and time are connected), time will be experienced differently.  It would explain how the saints can hear the prayers of all of those who call upon them throughout the world and past the centuries.  Unlike our lives now that limit us in our ability keep things in mind and to listen to more than a few things at once, a heavenly perspective widens our vision.

This view of a Godly view of time is backed up by Catholic dogma.

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Today we remember how the Blessed Virgin was preserved from the stain of Original Sin to become the bearer of God Incarnate.

What we believe is that Mary was saved in advance of Christ's saving act on the cross but still by that redemptive power.  In other words, Jesus' death on Calvary saves Mary from sin, but it does it before the event happens chronologically.  The reason that this can happen is because from the Divine perspective, Good Friday and the Immaculate Conception are happening simultaneously.

Inception concretely shows us the concept by letting Cooper be the source of humanity's salvation by leading himself to the black hole from the place where time folds into eternity because it all is happening simultaneously.

In this sense, we have great comfort and trust in God because He is at this moment acting in every moment for the greatest good of all.

In part 3, we will be looking at human sin and the universe.

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